Sunday, September 16, 2012

A Tale of Two Sundays

This Week the Bishop
Next Week the Invitation

It is just one thing right after another at St. Gabriel’s. Just when we thought things were getting busy enough, they go right on getting busier. The Bishop comes here today and next week we are inviting 6,000 households to St. Gabriel’s!

I know that the very mention of the Bishop’s visit can make many anxious. But add to that an invitation to 6000 local households! That’s enough to take your breath away with anxiety if you are responsible for running the Sunday School or the Youth Program, or the whole church, for instance.

So let me first remind you and me to breathe deeply. In and then out; breathe!
Breathe in and then out; in and then out and continue doing so. 
"All shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well."
This is how the Holy Spirit comes to us.
She comes to us in our Breathing.
In Eastern Christianity, the word "Sophia" means “Wisdom”. Wisdom becomes the feminine dimension of God, in a very important sense.
The Center of the Eastern Church for over a thousand years was the Church of the Hagia Sophia or “Holy Wisdom”.

Those who seek to live in Wisdom must practice their breathing.
To inspire is to take a breath.
To be inspired it is necessary to practice breathing.
So then, breathe.
It is at the root of prayer and meditation to breathe well and to breathe deeply.
Thus we learn of God’s Wisdom, and God’s inspiration.
The word “spirit” and “inspire” share the same root in English, Greek and Latin; all the great languages of the Western Church.

So then the Bishop comes to us this morning.
The visit of a Bishop is a signature moment for Episcopalians since it is in the very name of our church that we describe ourselves as a church with Bishops.
There’s that Greek language again; “Episcopos” being the root word. It means “overseer” or “superintendent”, one who has responsibility for a grouping of congregations in a unit we call a “Diocese”.
In fact the basic building block for the church is not the congregation if we look back historically at our own church or even as we look back at the majority of the Christian Experience.
The building block for the church is the Diocese.

The Bishop is the Defender of the Faith.
He or she represents our Unity in Christ
Our Apostolicity is resented to us in the Bishop in the sense that the Whole of the Church is represented to us in the office.
Thus, for instance, when we come to the Bishop for Baptism, Confirmation, Reception or Reaffirmation, we proclaim our faith to the whole Church.
The Bishop becomes much more than a person and the Church becomes more than an organization.
Understood correctly the Bishop represents our physical and spiritual connection to Jesus.
I used to tell that to my children, since my priest told me the same thing. 
When the Bishop lays hands upon your heads, it is symbolically as though Jesus himself lays His hands upon you, because in an unbroken Apostolic Succession, that Physical and Apostolic presence comes down to us at the hands of the bishops of the church.
And too the Church is more than just an organization. We become members of Christ as we gather with our Bishop and as we gather with one another.
We are the blessed communion of all faithful believers. And I believe this Communion crosses denominational boundary and even crosses beyond life and the grave and unites us to all the faithful of God, living and dead. When I go to communion, I gather with all the beloved of God.

And that brings me to next week too. Over the next day or two almost 6,000 invitations will be extended to every household in Douglassville. We are doing an EDDM an; an Every Door Direct Mailing. Much like the local Pizza Parlor or Chinese Restaurant, we too need to announce to the community we live in that we are in business.

We are in the business of God. And yes, that makes us busy. If we are to be busy with the business of God when visitors come to our door, lets do so with a warm welcome. And lets remember that it is always our business to proclaim Christ’s Victory over sin and death. Our sins are forgiven. Life doesn’t end, it changes. It changes at our Baptism, it changes at our Confirmation, it changes as we gather with one another week after week. It changes as we are gathered to God one after another unto our ancestors.

And what we are learning too in the Episcopal Church is this; God loves us without distinction just as blessed Peter the Apostle said in his now famous Easter Sermon;

Acts 10:34,35
The “Outsiders” Hear the Good News
Then Peter began to speak to them: ‘I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.'
And Blessed Paul the Apostle also stayed on message when he said the following.

Galatians 3:28
There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.
I know full well that there is a spiritual brouhaha over sexual orientation, gender identity, class, race and ethnicity. And one after another we, in the Episcopal Church, have come to believe that Jesus makes no distinctions and neither should we. And yes, I know that there are passages in Leviticus where you can  condemn for certain kinds of people, but when the Chief Priests and the Pharisees challenged Jesus to sum up the Law, Jesus did not begin to tick off those we could exclude from God’s Salvation Plan. You and I know full well what he said:  he picked the “Shema” that Verse from Deuteronomy that says:

Deuteronomy 6:4,5
Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God is One and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.
This, Jesus said, is the first commandment. And the second is like unto it. His mind searched the Scripture in an instant and he said this;

Leviticus 19:18
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
The two become one congruent law with the other. Love God and love your neighbor. You cannot love the One without loving the Other. God and neighbor are interchangeable as it were. Jesus then sent us out to do the work that God has given us to do. And a hard piece of work it is too, when we think of those who mean us harm, or even those within our families with whom we feud.

But now, getting back to next week, I doubt very much that 6000 folks will come to our doors next Sunday. I have no idea how many will carelessly toss our invitation into the recycle bin. But I pray that some will be moved to feel that tug within the heart that says; "Maybe, just maybe these people down at St. Gabriel’s will welcome me into the Holy Place and allow me to meet God and explore what it means to love God and serve God’s people".

So, keep breathing. Breathe in and breathe out. 
God will be with us in all things!

Fr. Paul

No comments: